Wellington store launches 'Adopt a Movie' scheme to stay running
A Wellington video store has come up with a creative solution to help keep its doors open - adoption.
The Aro St Video Shop last week introduced an Adopt-a-Movie scheme, where the public can exclusively sponsor any film in its more than 23,000 strong collection, or help buy a proposed new acquisition movie. Adoption prices range from $20 to $35.
Aro Video owner Andrew Armitage says that as the "parent" of a film, the adopter is entitled to free lifetime rental of the film and receives a certificate and naming rights, both on the physical DVD case and the store's web page.
He says it was conceived as a way to keep purchasing a breadth of interesting titles, in the face of ever-declining resources.
"We simply wanted to keep adding interesting, imported titles to the library, but haven't been able to afford them, or the cost of having them rated, or classified.
"The scheme allows us to be more responsive to customer requests. Instead of saying 'no', we can give them an option if they'd like to see it in the library."
Armitage says the idea was originally mooted around a year ago, around the same time as the store's immediate future was only secured via the introduction an annual subscription scheme, but it has taken this long to get "everything lined-up on a shoestring budget".
He says that, "funnily enough", some customers had been in during that time suggesting that they would be prepared to fund a particular title they were desperate to see.
Encouraged by the feedback and uptake so far, he's been particularly impressed by how it has attracted attention on social media.
"It was definitely a gamble. You definitely can't assume people aren't going to pick on it because you're asking them for more money. But what's really been interesting is when somebody has been enthusiastic about supporting the cause, they've immediately told others about it. Some people have challenged others to match them.
"I think the voice of the crowd is more potent than just an appeal from us. We are lucky enough to be in a position where we have a crowd of loyal supporters who are on board in terms of hearts and minds and we can use them in a way that helps sustain us longer term. Hopefully this will result in, rather than fewer customers renting more often, a much wider variety of customers perhaps renting less often."
Armitage says the current membership level is around 70,000, with 16,000 subscribed to Aro's online "newsletter". And while they received an influx of "refugees" from other, now defunct video stores over the summer period, that was somewhat offset by those deciding to "experiment" with streaming services. "It is a constant challenge to keep the boat afloat," he admits.
However, bolstered by the enthusiasm around the new scheme, Armitage says he has been reinvigorated to start researching the availability of more classic and obscure titles and battling the "outdated" Film &Video Publication Classifications Act 1993.
"I'd estimate there to be several hundred titles a year that are denied a DVD release because of the prohibitive costs of the archaic DVD classification process, and every year is worse than the last. This is of constant aggravation to customers who simply want to watch quality film and TV for mature audiences. It actually breaks my heart when a title like the Danish TV series Follow the Money is not going to be released because the distributors cannot justify the obligatory $3000 to have it classified by the OFLC [Office of Film & Literature Classification].
Long-time Aro St fan Rebecca McMillan was one of the first to sign up for "movie adoption". Always keen to support the store in whatever way she could, McMillan says she got in early because she wanted to make sure she secured 2011 film Drive.
"Some people may choose a classic like Citizen Kane or The Shawshank Redemption, but I wanted to ensure a modern classic would forever be available. It has a special place in my heart. The film is an adrenaline rush, Ryan Gosling plays a Hollywood stunt driver by day and a getaway car driver by night and it has a killer soundtrack. It's got surprising ultra-violent moments and it has Ryan Gosling in it."
Free lifetime rental of it was just the cherry-on-top for her, McMillan says, "having my name next to Ryan Gosling is priceless".
Describing the store as a "national treasure", she says that while online viewing continues to grow, she believes that we're going to see a renaissance in physical film media in the same way that vinyl has endured.
"Being able to read the DVD slip, appreciate the artwork and browse special features are things I enjoy doing. Personally, I'm less inclined to possess movies these days, but I really want to ensure that there's a library that endures, so I can access the movies as I want. Online services curate the selection that we are allowed to see. Aro has thousands more titles available than any of them."
Find out more about adopting a movie from Aro Video here.
Which movie would you adopt? Tell us in the comments.